Through the Chongwe Food System Lab (FSL), Healthy Food Africa is promoting production of traditional vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, African eggplant, and other leafy vegetables.
Author: Mangiza Chongo
Chongwe is a peri-urban settlement in Zambia’s Lusaka province. It is located just over 40km from Lusaka and sometimes referred to as Lusaka rural. It is still primarily an agrarian community, even though lately the city has been expanding due to the growing urban-rural migration from Lusaka as its proximity makes it possible for people to work and do business in Lusaka while avoiding the hustle and bustle of city life.
Though different types of food varieties are grown, most households depend on maize. This is not only because it is a cash crop, but also because government subsidizes maize production with inputs as well as provides market for the crop. This has a negative effect on the nutrition because it makes it more attractive to concentrate on maize production rather than on foods that provide nutrition.
How the Chongwe FSL promotes nutrition
Through the Chongwe FSL, Healthy Food Africa is promoting production of traditional vegetables such as pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, African eggplant, and other leafy vegetables. Farmers were trained in organic vegetable production and how to practice mixed farming and crop rotation to ensure good quality crops that have good nutritional content. Further, the FSL is running massive campaigns on consumption of organic produce to stimulate markets for organic foods. The campaign is focusing on the nutrition value of organic foods as compared to chemically grown foods.
On the consumption side, the FSL is promoting consumption of diversified foods especially traditional fruits and vegetables that are mostly seasonal foods such as Masuku (wild fruits), masau (wild fruits), vinkubala (caterpillars), mushrooms, Katapa (cassava leaves), and sweet potatoes. These are mostly preserved and served as dry delicacies in times when they are not in season.
Chongwe FSL also has promoting integrated farming systems where poultry keeping is being encouraged side by side with organic vegetable production. The manure from the poultry is used to make compost and the vegetable products that go to waste are used to feed the animals. This also contributes to intake of proteins mostly from chicken, rabbits, goats and pigs thereby promoting healthier nutrition within the target community.